Just when you think things have reached an all-time low, as I did when the new Made in Britain logo was announced earlier this month, someone pops up to reawaken your faith. Few things make me madder than designers that call themselves “brand consultancies” or marketers who think that changing their logo is the same as “branding”, so when I come across real brand developers it feels like cause for celebration. The saviours in this case are the UK fitness chain Fitness First and their London design consultancy The Clearing.

Not only is brand development my thing, I’m into sport and fitness and I’ve also worked with international fitness chains, so this announcement wasn’t going to get past me.  According to Fitness First Marketing Director David Jones the chain decided it was out of touch with its clientele (nothing new for a fitness chain you might think) and their re-branding is their response. What makes this re-branding different is that it isn’t just the usual feeble change-the-logo-and-blag-it approach, but, it seems to me, a genuine attempt to actually change the “brand”.

Lets start by agreeing that a brand is not a logo, nor a product, but a community of people who share a set of beliefs, values and ideals.  If you are not sure about this you should take a look elsewhere on this site at some of the many times I have explained this perspective, or, better still, look me up (my e-mail is below) and I’ll explain it to you in person. Once you are on-board you’ll have to agree that consistency is key to a strong brand.  That’s not just consistency between the innumerable communications or points of contact, but between these and the brand promise – You’ve got one of these I guess?

Of the few businesses that it seems don’t labour under the mistaken assumption that a brand is a logo, too many believe its about making empty promises.  Not so The Clearing. Their founder Richard Buchanan told me (just as I do with Brand Discovery) “We help clients identify where the future value opportunity resides within their market and create a branded experience that aligns their offer with the needs & motivations of high value consumer segments”, which is a good start, but as I have said many times, you have to walk the talk!

Fitness First Ad #2

Richard pointed out that the new Fitness First positioning shaped a brand strategy that embraced every internal and external touch point and so it should.  This is what integrated marketing is all about and definitely the only approach to brand building that will achieve the consistency you need. An example of this can be seen in the way the Clearing worked with the Fitness First fitness teams to redefine their fitness philosophy and approach to training and the HR team to inform a new service-led culture.  As I have said many times, marketing is at the centre of a modern business and influences everything that everybody at every level of the organisation does.  Its the only way to build a brand.

Fitness First Ad 3

In the same way that the Full Effect Company tackles implementation The Clearing built a team of experts in the diverse disciplines required to deliver the strategy and imposed their own management process.  For instance, they brought in an interior design consultancy to deliver an environment and a digital consultancy to deliver the apps and online interface. Refreshingly, Richard went on to say “The logo, was just a small thing in the scheme of things. If the product and service isn’t right nobody cares about a logo – although we think this one’s pretty damn good. At the end of the day a logo is just another tool available to you to deliver your brand strategy”.  A man after my own heart!

Fitness First Ad #4

I call the relationships we have with brands “Brandships” because they are based on the same feelings of knowing and trusting that we use to choose our friends. Above anything else that’s about shared values and beliefs and I want to know that the fitness centre I choose shares my concerns about my health and wellbeing above their own bank balances.

The fact that the FF training philosophy and programmes have been remodelled to reflect customer needs is a big step for a fitness group.  The sector is, after all, normally associated with getting you to do stuff you don’t want to do and many centres have tended to use this as an excuse for not trying to deliver enjoyable experiences.  Its also a major differentiator.  I’m sure that the group will have great success with that, but the proof of the pudding … However, with the attention that The Clearing has given to things like HR and training, all of which have to be driven by marketing in any business, at least there’s a good chance they will.

Phil Darby
January 17, 2014

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